November is National Native American Heritage Month. What started at the turn of the century as a single day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has evolved into a full month being designated to honor those contributions.
It is important to understand the long-standing history that has brought Americans together on this land and our responsibility within that history. Not only should we acknowledge that history, but we should also honor the earth beneath us and the Indigenous people who inhabited and cultivated this land. All of us must acknowledge that we are occupying Indigenous lands of Native American people who were systematically and often illegally displaced from their lands throughout this country through treaties and colonization. This month offers an opportunity to encourage the sharing of untold and suppressed narratives, enhancing awareness of and appreciation for the histories and cultural heritage of those people.
Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native people. It also presents an opportunity to learn about the important contributions of Native people, the unique challenges faced by Native tribes and people (both historically and in present day), and introduces us to those who have worked to dissipate those challenges.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we are spotlighting educator, leader, artist, and social entrepreneur Brook LaFloe – an alum of the inaugural Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet of Minnesota that YWCA St. Paul hosts.
Brook grew up in St. Paul and is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for revitalizing culture and facilitating the growth of local Indigenous economies. She is the founder of Niniijaanis – One of Ones, a social enterprise for Indigenous children and families. This organization brings early childhood equity to American Indian children from birth to six years old, through culturally relevant learning materials and curriculum.
A member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, Brook was born into the Eagle clan and descends from the Bear clan. Her academic background includes a B.S. in Neuroscience and Anthropology from Tulane University and M.Ed. from Loyola University of Maryland, and two Association Montessori International (AMI) diplomas in Assistants to infancy (birth-3 years) and Primary (3-6 years). Brook has five years of experience in educational material making and many years in beadwork and sewing. She enjoys fancy dancing at Powwows, being a sister and aunty, and engaging in anything sports related.
Question: What do you know about Native American culture?